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As Winston Churchill said: “Never waste a good crisis…”

And in 2021 the time is certainly ripe for reassessing, reconfiguring, and rising above the ashes of the crisis that is COVID-19.

These unprecedented times are not only pressuring our Healthcare system for a rethink, but our Defence, Security and Justice sector too. Not letting this opportunity go amiss, or simply “sliding off the river bank back into the river” by reverting back to now redundant systems, was the order posed by Rhys Jones (Chief Executive of Fire & Emergency NZ) at our Safer Communities event in Pōneke last week.

In recapping his keynote presentation, we wanted to draw out some key mindset shifts Rhys stated as imperative for the Emergency response sector to get acquainted with for the societal rebuild that is taking place in now (fingers crossed!) Post-Covid New Zealand.

 

COMMUNICATION:

As with every relationship – communication is key!

And just as the squabble or lover’s spat isn’t really about the visible mess of dishes in the sink but rather a manifestation of some untended pain, the calamity that presents itself as crime, health and fire emergencies in actual fact speaks of greater community problems or needs.

So how do we address the deeper problem, not just use the bandage to nurse a surface level wound?

As our experiment in debuting the ‘team of 5 million’ last year, we now know that Kiwi’s can vouch for the old adage: many hands make lighter work. Rhys declared that we must collectively be determined to help make this change as the professionals tasked with cleaning up the mess – to envisage what is the desirable outcome for all, and commit to the biggest challenge in the emergency response sector that has been now been activated: “How do we work better, together?”

 

COLLABORATION:

Coming together as a sector to coordinate better response ability is what will extend public confidence and ensure that in times of crisis (much like the geographically and psychologically far-reaching aspects of the pandemic) we all don’t turn up with too much of one thing or too little of another. “We talk about a ‘common voice’, but where’s the common ear? So we can jointly listen to this voice, actually solve community problems, and more adequately tackle their causes, not just manage symptoms as they arise”, says Rhys.

In line with the Public Sector Act, the vision for sector responsibility to solve problems rather than single agency responsibility is what correctly positions the mechanisms needed to generate greater collaborative efforts nation-wide. As will common discussions, and willing engagement and participation from all emergency service departments.

This is about CREATING A SECTOR, not just following the well-worn route of ‘single agency trying to solve a problem with a single mandate.’ The majority of problems are bigger than one single sector’s ability, so we therefore must cement ourselves together as a cohesive and coherent group.

 

CLARITY:

Clearly outlined expectations, assumed positions, and designated roles can all aid every agency in contributing something to solving the problem on a local level, but on a sector-wide scale clarity of roles and awareness of resources is paramount.

How? Let’s get things in place so when the surge occurs the entire agency is able to work together seamlessly, without mucking around.

 

COMMITMENT:

Defining leadership across the 4 Rs –

Reduce

Ready

Respond

Recover

 

This is not only an apt mantra for Public Sector emergency response teams, but also on the ground with local communities. Committing to being there not only when crisis strikes, but to educate, engage and equip local communities to help themselves by defining their own plan of response, without necessarily relying on the cavalry coming over the hill every time. Pointed out by one audience member, we need to commit to pushing a ‘bottom up approach’ (local to govt), rather than ‘top down’ (govt to local) if we want to see real heroics happen in real time.

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